Millennial Women At Work: A Reading List

Photo: Mike Licht

These stories offer a glimpse into the weird world of “professionalism,” how young women are expected to adapt to rapidly changing, innately biased work environments. (This list isn’t exhaustive. There is no one universal millennial experience, no matter what your crotchety relatives on Facebook would have you believe.) And while millennial women are at the forefront of some of these changing norms—monetize that side hustle!—we are still at the mercy of societal forces beyond our control, including nepotism, sexism, and, in many cases, racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression. Millennial women are the hardest working people I know, and I wanted to celebrate their perseverance, fearlessness and creativity.

1. “My Job Search.” (The Point, Emilie Shumway, 2012)

A hundred cover letters + a handful of interviews = months of desperation. My favorite part of Emilie Shumway’s meditation on life after college is her deconstruction of professionalism and the disconnect between her personhood and the self that job-hunts.

2. “The Revolutionary History of the Pantsuit.” (Erica Euse, Vice, March 2016)

There is much to say about cultural arbiters of women’s modesty in the workplace, but for now, let us focus on the pantsuit.

3. “The Male-Dominated Workplace Survival Guide.” (Caitlin Van Horn, Femsplain, January 2015)

Caitlin Van Horn used to work in craft beer, so she knows male-dominated industries. My favorite suggestion: “Ignore the Urge To Try and Play Ball — or Any Other Sports Metaphors.”

4. “Follow Your Arrow: Photographer Michelle Davidson-Shapiro on Confidence and Caring.” (Beth Maiden, Autostraddle, March 2016)

I admire women who have the business acumen and intense work ethic to turn their creativity pursuits into their careers. Autostraddle’s “Follow Your Arrow” series documents queer individuals who’ve done just that. In this installment, take a peek into Michelle Davidson-Shapiro’s life as she photographs weddings, family portraits and a beautiful campaign for Bluestockings (NSFW!), raises her young daughter and promotes her small business.

5. “Tech Women are Busy Building Their Own Networks.” (Ann Friedman, Washington Post, January 2014)

Networking, long a career-climbing buzzword, is actually critical to female technologists’ success. “When I feel less alone, it forces me to be braver and take more risks,” says Hersi Issa. “That thing you fear, being left out on a limb alone, that feeling that keeps people from testing themselves and pushing themselves. And you feel that less when you’re part of a community.”

6. “Lonely At The Top: Being a Lady Boss Without Mentors.” (Ann Friedman, The Cut, April 2013)

Oh, you thought there was going to be only one Ann Friedman piece on this reading list? Think again! Ann is one of my hustle inspirations—I’m equally addicted to her weekly newsletter and her podcast with tech queen Aminatou Sow. Ann became a boss in her 20s, when she was the same age as many of her coworkers.

7. “Bridget Jones and the Millennial Workplace.” (Daniel Wenger, The New Yorker, March 2016)

Bridget Jones: quintessential honorary millennial. I found this essay delightful.

7a. “Why Millennial Women Are Burning Out.” (Kelly Clay, FastCompany, March 2016)

Sometimes, I feel guilty for being young and so tired. I’m not alone. According to this article, many, many millennial women experience burnout by age 30. In essence, women are conditioned to care deeply, to overachieve, and in our super-connected society, it’s virtually impossible to leave the office behind at the end of the day.

I especially related to this: “But beyond high expectations, many millennials burn out at around age 30 because they are unhappy in their jobs and don’t see a clear career path.” I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, confused, and unproductive. As I draw closer to 26 (Closer to 30 than 20! my anxious brain screams), I’m afraid I’ve made a mistake. I don’t know whether to keep pursuing writing, if I’m good enough. This article has some advice for me and mine: “Take a break and go easier on [your]selves, and to be more intentional about [your] next moves.” Makes sense to me.